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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods. Monthly ovulation may not occur and levels of androgens (male hormones) are elevated.   The condition is more common than we often realize, with up to 10% of women affected. 

Elevated androgens can result in excessive facial hair growth, acne, and male-pattern scalp hair thinning.  Many women with PCOS are overweight or obese and are at higher risk for developing diabetes, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, and sleep apnea.  Untreated, PCOS can often lead to depression, anxiety, and potential risk for breast and/or uterine cancer.  

Women with PCOS may not ovulate every month.  When ovulation does not occur, the lining of the uterus can become thicker which results in heavy and/or prolonged bleeding. Irregular or absent menstrual periods can increase the risk abnormal overgrowth of the lining or even uterine cancer. Women with POCS often have fewer than 6-8 menstrual periods per year. 

The cause of PCOS is not well understood.  It is believed that abnormal levels of a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH) and high levels of male hormones (androgens) interfere with normal ovarian function.  

PCOS is associated with elevated levels of insulin in the blood which results in “insulin resistance” which contributes to weight gain or difficulty losing weight. 

Signs and symptoms of PCOS generally begin around puberty or shortly after.  Hormonal changes can vary with this syndrome and can present from mild to extreme. Women can present with irregular menses, infertility, unwanted hair growth, acne, difficulty losing weight, ovarian cysts, or pelvic pain. 

It is important to see your provider if you think you are suffering from PCOS.  Evaluation for PCOS starts with a comprehensive physical examination, blood testing and a pelvic ultrasound.  Many of the health risks associated with PCOS can be controlled and prevented with good medical care. 

Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are most commonly used to regulate menstrual periods and protect women from thickening of the uterine lining and uterine cancer.  OCPs can also be effective for treating unwanted hair and acne.  Other forms of contraceptives such as an intrauterine device (IUD), contraceptive patch or vaginal ring are available options to consider.  Androgen blocking medications such as spironolactone can be used to control unwanted hair growth.  Medications such as Metformin can help regulate and improve insulin levels, reduce the risk of diabetes, and bring back healthy menstrual cycles with ovulation.  The pros and cons of each must be discussed with your provider to make a best decision for you!

If you think you are suffering from PCOS, it is important to be evaluated, diagnosed and treated by a medical professional. Please call McDowell Mountain Gynecology today at (480)483-9011 to make your appointment with Jennifer Tempest RN, FNP who has expertise in effectively treating patients with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome! 

Jennifer Tempest RN, FNP

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